How To Find Pet Safe Ice Melts For Happier Paws

Dog running on snow and ice

If you’re reading this article, you’re the kind of dog owner who cares about finding pet safe ice melts for your dog.

The truth is everyone should worry.

In fact, there are some things about rock salt – and its safer cousins – that might surprise you.

When it comes to our winter maintenance plans and our dogs, here’s something to ponder…

Why Do We Protect Our Cars But Not Dogs From Salt?

Think about what happens to your car when you drive behind a salt truck in the winter. That rock salt corrodes the metal and paint right off your car!

So those of us who live in cold climates take our cars in every fall to protect them. We use a spray-on goo to keep the salt away from the paint and metal on our precious cars.

But we let our dogs walk unprotected on the same roads (and sidewalks) we’re protecting our cars from.

Seems kind of crazy right?

Try this experiment at home:

Fill a zip lock bag with a few drops of water, add a tablespoon of rock salt and zip it up.

Now feel the bag.

You’ll feel that it gets hot. Now imagine how it feels between your dog’s toes.

Salt can get lodged in between your dog’s pads where it can heat up to around 170 degrees! That’s hot enough to cause burns. 

And the pain will cause your dog to lick his paws. This then adds even more moisture to his feet … and now the salt is on his lips and tongue too.

Rock salt can also irritate his gastrointestinal system. leading to tummy troubles. And even more worrisome is that it can trigger seizures when eaten in large quantities.

This is pretty scary when you consider how much your dog licks his paws after a walk.

So if you didn’t know before, then now you know that you should keep your dog away from salt whenever possible!

And you need to use pet safe ice melts whenever possible to melt snow and ice in your own yard.

But are all Pet-Friendly ice melts actually safe? 

Finding Pet Safe Ice Melts

With names like …

  • Safe Paw
  • Safe-T-Pet
  • Ice Melt for Pets

… these alternative products must be safe, right?

But you have to look at more than the name to know if an pet safe ice melt product is really safe. Here’s an example …

Ice melt products can say “Pet Friendly,” or “Safer for Pets/Paws” on the label even if it’s still just rock salt. Regular rock salt has jagged edges and can cut your dog’s paws.

So some companies round off the rock salt edges … and that apparently earns them the right to say it’s safe for paws!

Well, rounded rock salt might be safer than jagged rock salt, but that’s not really the point (no pun intended). The truth is it’s still not safe for your dog (or the planet)!

Here are some of the most commonly used chemicals in ice melters:

  • Magnesium Chloride
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Calcium Chloride
  • Sodium Acetate
  • Calcium Magnesium Acetate
  • Glycols

Chlorides

Chloride-based ice melters are the most common and cheapest. This includes calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. It’s basically salt.

Chlorides are mined from the earth and made into the shape you see in packages … but here’s the trouble with some chlorides:

  • Magnesium chloride – can be irritating and result in gastrointestinal upset. It’s also quite dangerous for dogs with kidney problems.
  • Sodium chloride – Large amounts can lead to sodium toxicosis and can be lethal to dogs. Smaller amounts can cause stomach upset like vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Potassium chloride – Severe gastrointestinal irritation that can cause hemorrhagic vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Calcium salts (calcium carbonate, calcium chloride, and calcium magnesium acetate) – Calcium salts are the most hazardous. In fact, they’re the most severe irritants of all the ingredients in ice melts. If your dog eats these, he’ll likely vomit and have diarrhea. These ingredients are also well-known skin irritants, so they’re likely to bother his paws.

Glycols

These ice melts are very effective. The trouble is that ethylene glycol-based ice melts contain the same active ingredient as antifreeze. These products are highly toxic and can be deadly if your dog eats it … so stay away!

On the other hand, ice melters with a propylene glycol base are much safer. Propylene glycol ice melts usually contain urea as the active ingredient. This is generally recognized as relatively pet-safe. 

Note: while propylene glycol is quite safe for dogs, it can damage a cat’s red blood cells when licked or eaten.

Related: Sticky Sweet or Deadly? 6 Tips To Prevent Antifreeze Poisoning in Pets

Keeping Your Dog Safe

There’s really no such thing as completely pet safe ice melts. Even the ones that are safer shouldn’t be eaten. And that includes your dog licking his paws after walking on it.

There are some other things to consider when you’re looking for dog-friendly ice melters:

  • Don’t buy based on price. Safer ice melt products use more expensive chemicals and are worth the extra expense.
  • Find a product that doesn’t have any warning labels on it. If a product isn’t safe for you or your children, it’s not safe for your pets.
  • Look for products that are salt and chloride free.
  • Visit the manufacturer’s website and read about the ingredients … and don’t be afraid to do some online research.
  • Finally, even though you may be using a pet safe ice melt product, your neighbors and city may not be.

Ice Melt Alternatives

If you can’t avoid ice melts, it’s always a good idea to clean your dog’s paws right after a walk. Use plenty of lukewarm water, then dry them well.

Another option is to consider using dog boots or paw salve during the winter season. Some dogs may take a while to get used to booties but they can save you from bathing paws.

And you can keep things safer at home by using things like:

  • Sand or dirt
  • Wood ash

These may be messier alternatives but they won’t cause harm to your dog or the environment. And you can always use a little elbow grease to keep your paths clear with a shovel or pick.

RELATED: 15 Winter Care Tips For Your Dog

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